Dele Momodu@60: Relationship Beyond Ovation By Olayinka Agboola

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We were all born to achieve different purposes in life. Yes. We all desire to be successful but most of us never really develop that critical sense of focus, passion and perseverance.

Ayobamidele Abayomi Ojutelegan Ajani Momodu had all these ‘packaged’ for him in copious measures by the Creator as he journeyed down to this world sixty years ago.

It has been a very long time since I wrote tributes like this about anybody, anywhere. I have, perhaps, become lazy or maybe I have been too busy keeping myself and my businesses alive to bother about scripting eulogies to deserving friends and loved ones.

I can quickly submit here before I forget that I am yet to meet a Nigerian that has passion for Journalism as much as Basorun Dele Momodu. And I have so many reasons for my submission. It is no gainsaying that the Creator bestowed on him a far more than average intelligence quotient matched with a gargantuan native balance to push ahead in life. He is truly a man with a divine mission.

How did I meet Basorun?

I first met him while I was a student of the defunct Oyo State College of Arts and Science (OSCAS), Ile Ife, Osun State in 1982 after I left Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan.

Even at that time, it was obvious he was going to end up in life as a popular man. I knew him. But I was sure he did not know me. I was certainly not one of those to attract his attention that time. He was one of our young lecturers and I recall that he handled English Literature under Mr Ogunmodede then. But he was so popular we all called him ‘Dele Mad’. How we came about that, I cannot readily recollect here. Seye Oyeleyo of DAWN Commission, a friend and fellow student at that time may recollect…

After our encounter in Ile Ife, I did not get to hear anything about him until I got to Lagos in 1991.The story of my sojourn in Lagos will come later (if I end up squeezing time to knock it together).

I landed in Lagos after serving in Bauchi and running a company with Brother Gbenga Adeyemi (Guze), the elder brother of one of my mates at Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan. I left the North-Eastern city owing to the religious riots that broke out in 1991. I thereafter chose to stay briefly in Ibadan before proceeding to Lagos in tandem with the adrenalin of adventure which had overtaken my being. I took my father’s car with me. It was this car that I used in borrowing money to uplift the career of a popular juju musician in whose talent I had faith. He defaulted in paying and the issue became a media war between us. I still have copies of editions of The Punch, Daily Sketch, Vanguard, Nigerian Tribune, Daily Times, Hints and several others who published our ‘war’ then. It was during this brouhaha in 1992 that I encountered Dele Momodu officially.

Apparently, he read about the media brickbats the musician and I were throwing at each other and somehow, we met and he sat me down for a serious lecture. During the session, he told me the story of how he fell out with his own boss too, late May Helen Ezekiel who owned Classique Magazine. He told me about how he started a media war against her before Otunba Mike Adenuga, the owner of Globacom lectured him on why it is against the laws of propriety to engage close associates or friends in media war. This drew me to Momodu and prompted me to immediately drop my ‘toga of battle’ to follow him just like Peter began to follow Christ the Messiah.

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By this time, he was a major distributor of the now defunct famous Abiola Bread owned by late Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. He sold bread with his blue-colored Volkswagen Jetta Car. At the same time, he was a Contributing Editor at the defunct FAME WEEKLY MAGAZINE where he maintained a weekly column, PENDULUM.

Bob Dee, as I met others calling him that time was the man everybody wanted to talk to and be with. His column was one of the very major reasons people bought FAME WEEKLY MAGAZINE. The directors then were Mayor Akinpelu, Kunle Bakare and Femi Akintunde-Johnson.

Unofficially, I became Bob Dee’s Personal Assistant running stuffs for him. I must at this point confess that this new relationship with the prolific writer fanned the flair for writing in me. I would take the manuscript of his PENDULUM from him as he wrote each page and re-write. I never really graduated as an apprentice writer because we almost immediately got involved with the MKO Abiola presidential campaign.

Bob Dee got his friends to employ me as a reporter at FAME WEEKLY. I was put under the late WALE OLOMU to also learn how to write entertainment stories. But Dele Momodu was still my boss.

Later, Prince Nduka Obaigbena asked Bob Dee to set up THISDAY Newspapers for him. He gave him a brand new Peugeot 504. Before this time, Chief MKO Abiola had arranged for a grey Mercedes Benz for him.

The newspaper took off somewhere on Norman Williams in Ikoyi, if I still remember. Okagbue Aduba, a complete gentleman, was brought in as the pioneer Editor. This is an interesting story for another day.

The point here is that Bob Dee put everything he had behind everything he did and is still doing. He is an excellent multi-tasking guru who kept his weekly column writing alongside his private consultancy businesses while still ensuring that THISDAY took off even as he continued running stuffs for MKO Abiola and his campaign team.

Permit me if I miss anything out because at this point, things started moving at a dizzying pace. The Jos Primary election that produced MKO Abiola took place; Baba Gana Kingibe was chosen as his running mate; their party was Social Democratic Party (SDP);Bashir Tofa emerged as the candidate of NRC; the elections held and MKO won. Yes, he won. Thereafter, the June 12, 1993 struggle started. We all abandoned what we were doing to concentrate on how to actualize the mandate given to the legendary MKO.

At this time, the owner of THISDAY, Nduka Obaigbena had become a strong anti-June 12 advocate. He wanted Bob Dee to join him. Of course, Dele Momodu declined, stuck to the June 12 struggle. He never wavered. He was resolute. This landed him in Alagbon. He was detained for several days. After this, we smuggled him out of Nigeria to the United Kingdom.

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While in London, he never allowed the challenges he faced in the bid to firmly entrench himself in his new abode to obliterate his passion for journalism. This was how he ‘conjured up’ with the idea of establishing OVATION INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE.

For those who do not know, we operated in Lagos like a ‘triumvirate family’. Dele Momodu was the father, Kunle Bakare of the then, Fame Weekly Magazine was his best friend and son and I was the grandson. In those days, if one of us was at the then famous Nite Shift Nite Club with Ken Calebs Olumhese, you could be sure the others were around. Such was the strength of the chord that bound us! The rest is history.

When he therefore came up with the idea of OVATION INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE, he relied on Kunle Bakare and my humble self. We handled the Nigerian end of the business. We would arrange for materials and send to him. He would then package and publish and send to Nigeria. We distributed the magazines alongside FAME WEEKLY.

Somehow, Bob Dee and Kunle Bakare fell out. This became a huge dilemma for me. I assumed Kunle Bakare was my best friend that time. God bless his enigmatic wife, Desola. I was unfortunately caught in the middle of a quarrel between two great friends. I did not know what to do or on whose side to stay. Bob Dee was my boss. Bakare also known as Mr. KB was my friend.

It took me almost three months to make up my mind on what to do. I give thanks to God for the lives of Chief Ezekiel Fatoye, Godwin Mekwuye of Vivid Imagination, Hassan Fatungase of the then Bakers’ World and Sir Doksy, now Oba Adedokun Abolarin, the Orangun of Oke Ila; late Sonny Okosuns, Olabode Opeseitan, Daniel Wilson and Daddy Showkey. They helped me to make up my mind.

I had two options -join Kunle Bakare and abandon the OVATION INTERNATIONAL project, or stay with Dele Momodu and lose KB’s friendship and resign from Fame Weekly as Assistant Editor.

Chief Fatoye, Hassan Fatungase, Vivid and Doksy and others all asked me one question…How did you meet the two warring gentlemen? My answer, ‘Dele Momodu introduced me to Kunle Bakare’. Then, they unanimously advised me to stay with Dele Momodu, who, at this time could not come to Nigeria.

After this admonition, I packed Ovation Magazine’s documents and all appertaining to it out of the Wemabod Estate, Ikeja office of FAME WEEKLY MAGAZINE to Afisman Drive, Anifowose in Central Ikeja where late Brother Rotimi Seriki(another wonderful soul), the husband of senior sister of Dele Momodu’s wife had a ready office for Ovation Magazine. So, the business of running the magazine continued under my humble self. And this was an assignment I carried out to the best of my ABILITY. Afterall, I could not have offered what I did not have. The rest is history…

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As someone close to him at that time, I learnt so many lessons following him around, I learnt to practically worship him because he was to me, an enigma. He could speak both Yoruba and English fluently, he could write both, he was creative and he was extremely humane. He loved to read and had a very rich library. These were the virtues in him that served to cement our bond.

I stand the risk of sounding like a broken record but, permit me to mention specific examples to buttress the virtues that made Bob Dee tick.

Selfless

Bob Dee was not a rich man, but I saw him, at that time, sponsor at least four young men through their Law School programmes. One of them, Barrister Bamidele Abolarin (Super Dee) lives in Ibadan like me today.

Live and Let Live

Bob Dee lived for the day. If he had ten thousand naira, he would dash out eight and keep two. And if he had reason to dash out the two, he would. Fellow journalists would come to him at his Adigboluja, Ojodu, Lagos residence with myriads of problems and he would not only listen, he would lift fingers to support. Examples are too numerous to mention here. One of us then had problems with his wife because he did not have a car. Dele Momodu dashed him his Jetta Car!

Courageous and Committed

If you are looking for an example of courage, Bob Dee was one. For those who can remember, in 1993 during the heat of the election annulment, Bob Dee staged a ‘coup’ which saw the leader of the infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), Chief Abimbola Davis speaking to the press from The Kitchen Restaurant on Allen Avenue. After the epochal media meeting, we all ran away. Davis was smuggled out of Lagos to Togo using a Peugeot 504 car that I was commissioned to arrange. Bob Dee also disappeared while I escaped to Ibadan. In addition, Bob Dee was in charge of several underground moves to actualize the June 12 mandate of MKO.

Today, on behalf of my wife, Oluwatoyin and children, I thank him for being a great mentor to me despite our differences. He taught me that I must always restrict myself to my area of competence, be contented and to always stay on my own lane. He also lectured me on the need to dress well and be decent at all times. These orientations I got from the great Bob Dee, added to the Grace of God have helped me in life. This, to me is a relationship, brotherhood beyond Ovation. I am always proud to associate with this selfless mentor.

Basorun Dele Momodu, omo Iya Oyo, happy 60th birthday sir! God bless you, God bless your elegant wife, Omobolaji and all your children.

• Olayinka Agboola is the Crew Leader at Parrot Xtra Magazine, PMParrot.com and Parrot Xtra Hour On Radio

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